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Asia/Pacific Cambodia Eating Abroad Featured

Embassy, Siem Reap – Creative Khmer Gastronomy

June 1, 2018
Dessert at Embassy in Siem Reap

I looked over the menu not once, but twice, fervently studying each and every course listed. There are seven on the tasting menu and none of them have any mention of a fish amok. This, dear friends, startles me because it is quite unusual for a Cambodian restaurant to be without a version of the national dish, but then, Embassy is not your usual Cambodian restaurant. This is Cambodian-inspired fine dining, where chefs Pol and Sok have combined their love of local ingredients with their French culinary training. The double act are nicknamed the Kimsan Twins, though they aren’t really twins but coincidentally share a surname. I get it, it’s catchy, but after dining at their all-female restaurant, I think the food and service is memorable enough.

I’ve barely had time to admire the crisp white tablecloths and the very chic decor before the amuse bouche arrives. It’s a steamed baby tomato stuffed with buffalo; I like that it looks dainty and cute, but tastes a lot bigger and bolder. I take this as a sign of things to come and heartily look forward to the next course. The lotus stem salad comes tightly packed together and well dowsed in the sweet and sour dressing which I’m a fan of, even though it means the slow cooked pork belly which is also supposedly present, is nowhere to be tasted.

Dining room decor at Embassy in Siem Reap

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Asia/Pacific Cambodia Eating Abroad Featured

Phnom Penh – A First-Timer’s Guide to the Cambodian Capital

May 18, 2018
Entrance to Royal Palace in Phnom Penh

When we landed in Phnom Penh, we knew nothing more than the name of our hotel and a rough idea of how much the taxi would cost to get us there. Many of you will know that pre-trip planning and research is not our strong suit. This was the case before we decided to hit the road for months on end, but is even worse now that we’re constantly on the move. Cambodia also had the added misfortune of being the last country on our South East Asia adventure; we were a bit travel worn by the time we arrived and in no mood for extensive days of sightseeing yet we didn’t want to waste our short time in the country.

Much to our delight, Phnom Penh turned out to fit our requirements perfectly – this vibrant city has enough to keep you occupied, but its compact nature means it’s not at all overwhelming. Visiting in April also meant that it was suffocatingly hot. I thought I had acclimatised to the soaring temperatures of Asia but landing in Phnom Penh pulled me back to reality. And so our days took on a comfortable routine of action-packed mornings and lazy afternoons in the poolside cabanas at our hotel – it was bliss. For first time visitors, I think three days in the city is ideal to get around the main attractions, enjoy some of the fantastic restaurants, and still have some down time. Here’s what you should do on your first visit to Phnom Penh…

Market stall in Phnom Penh

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Asia/Pacific Eating Abroad Featured Laos

Luang Prabang – Best Contemporary Laotian Restaurants

May 11, 2018

I can assure you that you will not go hungry in Luang Prabang. This pretty little Unesco town may be small, but its steady tourist trade means it is mighty when it comes to culinary offerings. During the day, the cafes and casual eateries dotted in amongst the souvenir shops and tour agencies in the main strip are awash with tourists seeking a bite to eat and refuge from the hot afternoon sun. When darkness falls, the streets come alive with the night market providing a one-stop-shop for eating, drinking, shopping, and people-watching! For a cheap and cheerful dinner, we couldn’t go wrong with a steaming bowl of Lao khao soi noodles which are like an ingenious cross of soup noodles and bolognese complete with herbs and condiments, while others went mad for the barbecue stalls or vegetarian buffets.

If you are in the mood for something with less curbside decor, there are restaurants aplenty serving anything from traditional Laotian cuisine to classic French fare, a legacy of their colonial past. However not all restaurants are created equal, and as is common in many tourist-centric towns, some are guilty of resting on their reputations and ultimately proving to be overhyped and overpriced. We experienced this at a much lauded French establishment serving food from a bygone era with little flavour or finesse, while others have also talked of standards slipping at other well known Laotian restaurants. After this, we stayed away from the main tourist hub and found our two favourite Laotian dining experiences located just a short tuk tuk ride away on the outskirts…

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Asia/Pacific Eating Abroad Featured Hotel Reviews Laos

Luang Say Residence, Luang Prabang – Refined Colonial-Style Haven

April 23, 2018

Still half asleep and in my morning daze, I was momentarily perplexed as to exactly where I was when I woke up that first day at the Luang Say Residence. The familiar crow of an energetic rooster is one we have heard all over our travels through Asia, and yet, my immediate surroundings took me to another world. ‘You’re in Luang Prabang’, I reminded myself… a pretty little town with a UNESCO Heritage Site title under its belt and an unshakable French influence. Which brings me right back to the Luang Say Residence and all makes sense again. This gorgeous hotel is well-regarded as one of the best in town, and within minutes of our arrival, I knew exactly why.

In stark contrast to the small but heavily-populated streets of the town centre, the Luang Say Residence is a sanctuary for those in need of rest and relaxation. At this point in our travels, we welcomed that idea and are not ashamed to admit that we spent a lot of our time in Luang Prabang simply chilling out at the hotel. If we weren’t in our suite we were most likely to be found down by the pool… The stunning French colonial style buildings set in lush, tropical gardens made for an inviting combination. Add the excellent restaurants and impeccable service, and the thought of spending the day at the Luang Say Residence was simply irresistible!

View of main pavilion at Luang Say Residence

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Asia/Pacific Eating Abroad Featured Malaysia

Dining Room at Macalister Mansion, Penang – A Menu of Discovery

March 29, 2018

After weeks of eating solely out of melanine plates and bowls, usually perched on stools at a wobbly plastic table, the sight of a well set table at Macalister Mansion was a welcomed one. Hawker centres hold a special place in my heart but there are also times when one wants to have a meal they can linger over. Preferably without the soundtrack of woks being fired up and pots clanging, and away from the glare of other hungry diners eyeing up your seat. The Dining Room at Macalister Mansion provided this brief oasis; you won’t find any of Penang’s famed street food here but you will find a fine-dining experience good enough to make you think you’re sitting in London’s Mayfair. In a country like Malaysia where hawkers reign supreme, this is a rare find indeed!

Macalister Mansion is named after Sir Norman Macalister, one of the first Governors of Penang. I’m not sure what he would have made of the transformation, but personally I think they have done a marvellous job restoring this colonial mansion into an exclusive eight bedroom boutique hotel in the heart of Georgetown. While each of the unique rooms has a luxurious but sleek approach to their design, the common spaces are where the artistic flair truly shines. We spent our first few moments at Macalister Mansion in their delightful Cellar, sinking into the oversized leather couches, eyes darting around taking in the trinkets carefully placed across the room. Before we got too comfortable, we moved into the Dining Room, another stunning space with tables set around a striking white tree centrepiece. The Penang we already knew felt like a world away…

Dining Room at Macalister Mansion Review of Discovery Menu

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Asia/Pacific Eating Abroad Featured Malaysia

Kinabalu Park – A Mountainside Getaway

March 22, 2018
Kinabalu Park Sabah Guide

I winced a little every time a local asked me if we were going to climb Mount Kinabalu. The short answer was no, but their disappointed looks always made me feel the need to explain that on this visit we neither had the time nor adequate preparation for conquering such a momentous experience. Next time, I promised. Sabah has a reputation for its natural beauty, and Mount Kinabalu is definitely the jewel in its crown. The tallest peak in Malaysia and UNESCO World Heritage site has been captivating and challenging visitors for years. The two day hike to the summit is so popular that spaces are limited and often booked out months in advance. Something I will keep in mind for when that next time eventually comes. But for now, we settled for the next best thing – spending a night in Kinabalu Park and taking in all its natural beauty on steadier ground, at a much more leisurely pace…

Kinabalu Park Sabah Guide

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Asia/Pacific Eating Abroad Featured Malaysia

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre – A Guide to Visiting the Orangutan

March 15, 2018
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

There are very few things that a certain someone and I would get up at 430am for, but the chance to get up close and personal with some orangutan definitely made the cut. Rightfully so too; these majestic creatures were once found all over South East Asia but in recent years their population has dwindled as a result of illegal logging, deforestation, and poaching. The species is now critically endangered, with as few as 104,700 Bornean orangutan and 14,613 Sumatran orangutan left. Up bright and early that morning, we headed to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre where they have been working tirelessly since 1964 to care for orphaned, injured or displaced orangutan. Sepilok is set on a large chunk of protected land at the edge of the Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve; when we arrived just as the doors were opening to the public, it was calm and serene… if I were an orangutan, I certainly wouldn’t mind hanging out there!

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

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